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  • Web-Frickin'-Log
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  • Arcade Attack - Retro Gaming Blog
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  1. I normally don't like to announce things before they are ready, but I can't keep making excuses to those waiting and asking about the next F18A board run. For the last 6 months, while requests for the F18A were trickling in, I have been working on a new version of the F18A, called the MK2, to solve the problems of the current board. At the point were I had enough requests for F18A boards, I was not quite ready with the new MK2 design, so I continued to avoid the direct question of "when do you think the next F18A run will be?" To not have to keep making excuses, and with apologizes to those who have been waiting patiently for a long time, I'm announcing the F18A MK2 now, about a month before it will probably be shipping. I wanted to do this so people would have some real status, and to help my conscience (Vorticon, I spelled it right this time... ). Here is a link to the long version of the story: http://codehackcreate.com/archives/592 I'll do the short and sweet version here. The primary features of the F18A MK2 are: * It is 52mm x 19mm, i.e. the same size as a standard 600-mil 40-pin DIP socket, so no tall-pins, short-pins, adapters, etc. will be necessary for it to fit in the host computers. * Digital video output (TBD, probably DisplayPort). No, there is no VGA, sorry. See my post above for the details on that. Digital video to VGA converters are available if you really need/want VGA. * Host audio injection into the video signal for those who can manage to connect one wire internally to pick up the system's audio and get it to a pin on the MK2. The MK2 will run the same core as the original F18A, and I am still committed to supporting, working on, and fixing the original F18A issues (there is a known problem with the interrupt on some systems, etc.) Future features based on the enhanced MK2 hardware. Access to these features will come with future firmware releases (I don't have time to do it all at once, sorry): * The MK2 has 512KiB of 10ns SRAM, i.e. basically 512KiB of VRAM. This VRAM will be available in a 9938-compatible way, and then some. * The MK2 has extra I/O, including the Mode-1 pin to make it possible to do the 9938-update to the 99/4A in a "TIM" manner. * More than double the FPGA resources than the original F18A. This means more possibilities for new stuff in the VDP. Other non-TI related possibilities: * With simple low-cost adapter boards to re-arrange the wiring, plus a firmware change, the MK2 can be used to replace other VDPs like those in the NES, the Master System, MSX2 (i.e. 9938/59 system), etc. * Stand-alone FPGA-based game system due to the on-board 9900 CPU and 14 extra general-purpose IO pins. * General purpose FPGA devboard. * More simple SPI-based host interface to use the MK2 as a video chip for simple micorcontroller projects, i.e. Arduino, etc. I plan to keep this thread updated with status and to gauge feedback. If all goes well, and if I have not just made a big mistake, I hope to have the MK2 shipping by late July. Ironically this will be exactly 6-years after the original F18A shipped! Some renderings and photos of the current prototype:
  2. I will be using this thread to document the development of a new programmer editor for the TI-99/4a called "Stevie". Download the cartridge image in the official release thread. As you might expect from its name, the editor is somewhat inspired by the unix editor "vi" and will also take elements of "tmux". So what do I have in mind: Designed from the ground up for 80 columns mode, specifically using the F18A but 9938 will be supported as well. Designed from the ground up for using SAMS card. Programming language of choice is TMS9900 assembly language The editor itself will run from cartridge space (multi-bank cartridge). Uses my spectra2 library as foundation (been doing major changes in the last couple of months, not related to games) Will have some "API" so that I can integrate with external programs and go back and forth between programs. Would like to add some kind of mouse support. This will not be a GUI in the traditional sense. If you used tmux with a mouse before you know what I mean. Possibility to have multiple editor panes open at once. Should handle files with up to 65536 lines Undo functionality, well up to a certain extent that is. Language awareness, e.g. behave differently based upon language (e.g. assembly, C, Basic, ...) Internal text representation will be decoupled from what actually will be rendered on screen. Should make the editor more responsive when dealing with large files, allow split panes, etc. Reconfigurable keymaps, possibility to swap between keymap with single key combination. Not everyone is into VI This is the start of a large project and I don't expect to have a truely useful version anytime soon. I expect this project to take multiple years, but you gotta start somewhere. Now I've taken my mouth full, I will use this thread to keep myself motivated ? There aren't too many resources out there discussing the architecture of a text editor, so cross-linking here: Dr. Dobb's Journal 1993 - Text Editors: Algorithms and Architecture Gap Buffers: a data structure for editable text Rope (data structure) - Wikipedia Vi Editor: Why Programmers Think This Old Editor is Still Awesome Threads on Atariage discussing topics -somewhat- related to Stevie: F18a F18a 30 rows 80 columns mode F18A high-resolution timer How to lock the F18a and halt the F18a CPU File handling CRU scan sample code, my implementation of a CRC-16 Cyclic Reducancy Check DSRLINK Code Tutorial File operations in assembly language E/A file access Opinions on TI-99/4a text file formats TI Basic integration Jump to TI Basic from assembly language Detect if TI Basic is running a program TI Basic move crunch buffer in assembly TI Basic session manager Others: Favourite text (programmers) editor on the TI-99/4a Better keyboard scanning? tmux for developers github: Stevie source code Issue tracker
  3. This is Stevie, a new 80 columns programming editor for the TI-99/4a. Key facts: 64 kilobytes cartridge rom Written in TMS9900 assembly language Requires the F18A VDP Requires 1MB SAMS memory card Requires FinalGROM cartridge (or compatible device) Only uses level 3 file I/O for better compatibility with various storage devices (tested with HRD4000B ram disk, TIPI, IDE DSR card and TI disk controller) Main features: It's fast Support 80 columns 30 rows Support 80 columns 24 rows Editor buffer with space for 10.200 lines of text (80 characters) 10 color schemes TI Basic integration 5 parallel TI-Basic sessions possible. "Fastmode" option on File I/O. Possibility to bypass VDP memory when loading files from a device with a supported DSR (ROS, IDE, ...) Clipboard support (copy between files) 2 cartridge ROM binaries exist: 30 rows 80 columns with "hardware" cursor (aka sprite cursor) Supported on the TI-99/4a with F18A and 1 MB SAMS. Fast storage device recommended (ramdisk, TIPI, ...) Runs in js99er emulator 24 rows 80 columns with "character" cursor Supported on the TI-99/4a with F18A and 1 MB SAMS. Fast storage device recommended (ramdisk, TIPI, ...) Runs in classic99 and js99er emulators. Help built-in (at least for keyboard shortcuts) Indicator for alpha lock up/down Source code: https://github.com/MirrorPusher/Stevie Issue tracker: https://github.com/MirrorPusher/Stevie/issues Development discussion thread on Atariage: 2022-01-22 Stevie v1.2S 30 rows 80 columns version stevie_v1_2s_8.bin 24 rows 80 columns version (for classic99) stevie_v1_2s_24x80_8.bin 2022-01-18 Stevie v1.2Q 30 rows 80 columns version stevie_v1_2q_8.bin 24 rows 80 columns version (for classic99) stevie_v1_2q_24x80_8.bin 2021-10-03 Stevie v1.1X stevie_v1.1x.bin 2021-02-06 Stevie v1.0 no longer available
  4. I'm starting this thread as a means to hopefully promote some F18A development, answer specific questions about programming the F18A, and finally as place to look for links to updated documentation and eventually firmware updates. This first post will always have the latest documents and updates attached, so there is no need to go digging through the thread to find the most recent information. I also hope it will contain questions, answers, and code examples. I would like to keep this thread technical and on-topic, so if you have other general F18A questions or comments, please start a new thread or use the other existing F18A thread. * Documentation: On-going. This is something I hope to complete, but until then Rasmus has collected many of the F18A programming posts from the forum and created PDF of them (thank you Rasmus!) See the files attached to this thread, and please ask F18A technical questions in this thread. The main F18A webpage (http://codehackcreate.com/archives/30) has the main feature list, as well as an initial post to getting started with programming the F18A. As I add documentation, I will post it on the website first, then make an update here to let anyone interested know there is something new. * Register Use Spreadsheet: Libre Office / Open Office .ods format. This is the primary spreadsheet I used while developing the F18A, and all functionality was documented in the spreadsheet first, then converted into HDL. That means the spreadsheet is always up to date with respect to the F18A's functionality. While some of the F18A's features require more documentation to use, much of the functionality is very self explanatory and can be used just by looking at the spreadsheet and reading the notes. For example, it does not take much to guessing to figure out what the "horizontal scroll register" does. ************* COMPATIBILITY ************* Pin-compatible replacement for the TMS9918A, 9928, 9929, and TMS9118 Video Data Processors. The F18A has been tested in the following systems: TI-99/4A Home Computer ColecoVison Game Console* ColecoVision ADAM Computer# Toshiba HX-10 MSX1 Computer Toshiba Pasopia-IQ MSX1 Computer JVC Victor HC-7 MSX1 Computer Yamaha CX5M MSX1 Computer@ SpectraVideo 328 Computer*@ Tomy Tutor Computer*@ SEGA SG-1000 Game Console SEGA SC-1000II (replaced a TMS9118 VDP) Telegames Personal Arcade Powertran Cortex Computer * Note1: These systems are known to have the original VDP soldered directly to the system circuit board and will require desoldering and a socket installed. # Note2: The ADAM computer requires an "offset board" to keep the F18A inside the main PCB outline. This is an available option when ordering and F18A. @ Note3: These systems are known to require USR4 jumper removed because the main system uses the CPUCLK output from the VDP as the main system clock. ************************ F18A FIRMWARE Change Log ************************ F18A V1.9 Dec 31, 2018 (CRC: 147A) * Prepare for open source release. * Split up the original "core" to create a top-module for the stand-alone F18A, and a "main core" that can be used as part of a larger SoC. * Fixed the VGA horizontal timing error caused by treating the pixel time as 40ns instead of 39.68ns. Because events were being counted in "pixels", this caused the horizontal sync pulse to be slightly off, and the overall line time to be 32us instead of 31.746us. This error meant each line was around 6.4 pixels too long, and pushed the total frame rate to 59.2Hz. This error was enough to cause games to fail (Pole Position on the 99/4A), and some monitors to not sync properly when run through video converters. The timing error also caused many problems for the PAL ColecoVision. * Removed sprite-linking. This was an unused feature and helped free up FPGA resources to allow the core to better fit in the Spartan-3E 250K. * Removed programmable GROMCLK divisor. Unused feature, free up resources. * Register mode and cd_i inputs to CPU component. V1.8 - Aug 24, 2016 (CRC: F981) * Fixed sprite collision bug where sprite collisions were being incorrectly detected outside of the active display, after line 191 or 239 depending on the line mode. * Added hybrid VR write restriction to mask VR writes to three-bits when the F18A is locked, like the real 9918A does. However, if mode bit M4 is set (80-columns), writes to VRs over VR7 are *ignored* instead of masked to three-bits. This allows various 9938 programs to work (or continue to work), as well as continue to support TurboForth that writes to VRs 0..15 to set up 80-columns (if straight masking was used, VRs 8..15 would over-write VR 0..7). V1.7 - Jan 1, 2016 (CRC: A3B5) * Fixed Bitmap-Layer (BML) display bug * Fixed GPU's PIX instruction to properly calculate BML addresses * Added power-on graphic that shows the current firmware version V1.6 - Apr 26, 2015 (CRC: 40CC) * Removed fixed tile functionality * Removed border scroll limit functionality * Removed banner functionality * Removed host-side 32-bit counter * Removed host-side 32-bit RNG * Removed GPU 32-bit counter * Removed GPU 32-bit RNG * Removed the sprite "disable value" (>F8) in the sprite Y-location when ROW30 is enabled. * Added second tile layer with its own NTBA, h/v page sizes, and h/v scroll regs * Added ECM2/3 pattern table size selections for tiles and sprites. * Added host-side segmented counter with 10ns accuracy. * Added configurable HSYNC and VSYNC GPU triggers. * Added fat-pixel (2x1) with 16-color support to the bitmap layer (BML). * Added 1x1 page scroll support for T40 and T80 modes. * Added option to reset most VDP registers to their power-on values. * Added option to disable Tile Layer 1, which includes GM1, GM2, MCM, T40, and T80. Sprites, the BML, and TL2 are still active and can be enabled/disabled independently. * Added option to allow attribute byte to be fg/bg color select in T40 and T80. * Added per-position tile attribute support. * Added DMA capability to the GPU: 8xx0 - MSB src 8xx1 - LSB src 8xx2 - MSB dst 8xx3 - LSB dst 8xx4 - width 8xx5 - height 8xx6 - stride 8xx7 - 0..5 | !INC/DEC | !COPY/FILL 8xx8 - trigger FILL (active high) will read a single byte at the src address and fill the destination with that byte. src, dst, width, height, and stride are copied to dedicated counters when the DMA is triggered, thus the original values remain unchanged. * Added USR3 jumper to control GROMCLK/CPUCLK output on pin37 to provide support for 9128/29 * Added USR2 jumper to disable/enable simulated scan lines (every other VGA scan line has its color reduced by 50%.) Also controllable via a new VDP register bit. * Added a 5th sprite reporting option instead of reporting the max-sprite, which on the F18A might be different than the original VDP because all 32 sprites can be on a single scan line. * Added a new register (VR51) to limit the maximum sprite processed. This has nothing to do with the number of sprites that can be visible on a scan line, which is controlled by a separate register (VR30). This register is always active and can be used instead of the >D0 byte in the sprite Y-location, and is the only way to limit sprite processing early when ROW30 is enabled. * Changed the GPU interlock so that polling the VDP status register will not cause the GPU to pause. This should greatly increase GPU performance during heavy VDP interrupt polling. * Fixed T80 NTBA two LSbit problem. They are ignored (set to "00") when the F18A is locked to provide compatibility with the 9938 and avoid problem with software that set the two LSbits of the NTBA to other than "11" as the 9938 documentation specifies they should be. This limits the T80 name table to 4K boundaries. When the F18A is unlocked, all 4-bits of the NTBA are used and the T80 name table can be located on 1K boundaries. * Fixed the 5th number update during a scan line. As long as the 5S flag is zero, the 5th number register follows the sprite scanning sequence. Seems to be a transparent latch that follows the input (current sprite being scanned) until latched by the 5S flag. If the status register is being polled and 5S is reset mid frame, then the 5th number begins following the scanned sprites again. This bug is known to have affected Miner49er on the 99/4A. V1.5 - July 2013 Not really a *bug* fix since the problem it corrects exists on the real 9918A, and only has to do with sporadic collision bit reporting during heavy polling of the original 9918A VDP status register. This was discovered while Rasmus was writing Titanium. The 9918A was not designed to have its status register polled which is why it provides an interrupt output. I don't think the original 9918A designers took the hazard into consideration, but I decided to make this correction because it is what the original designers would have done given their preference (and I asked Karl Guttag about it). Thus, the F18A implements what you would consider the "expected behavior", and will work as expected where the original 9918A might not. I did not make this decision lightly. V1.4 - April 2013 Fixed the sprite collision bug and a GPU bug with the divide circuit. The sprite bug is mostly affected by XB when a program uses CALL COINC(ALL). Most assembly games probably don't rely on the collision bit alone for sprites and perform coordinate testing, which is most likely why the bug slipped through all the testing (and I tested with a *lot* of games on a lot of platforms). V1.3 - July 2012 Original release firmware. ******** UPDATING ******** The In-System firmware update is available for 99/4A users. I am very thankful to Rasums and Tursi for their help in making this possible. You can download the F18AUpdate_vXX.zip file below. Detailed instructions are available on my website here: http://codehackcreate.com/archives/418 Alternatively you can update your F18A in any system via a JTAG programming cable. You can purchase a JTAG programming cable for about $59 USD from Digilent: JTAG HS3 programming cable/ This is very inexpensive for a JTAG cable (my Xilinx-brand cable was over $250!), and Digilent makes quality gear. You also need the Xilinx ISE-Webpack tools: http://www.xilinx.com/support/download/index.htm This is a free download from Xilinx, but it is BIG! About 6GB the last time I checked. There is a smaller download that contains just the programming tools called "Lab Tools" and is only about 1G. I'm still looking for a smaller / simpler solution. You will have to create an account (which is free). The primary program you need is called IMPACT and is used to program the FPGA and SPI-flash. Once you get the tools installed, download and unzip the f18a_250k_vXX.zip file. In the zip file you will find the MCS file: f18a_250k_vXX.mcs The .mcs file is used to update the SPI-flash ROM attached to the FPGA. Here are the quick instructions. The term "system" means your 99/4A, ColecoVision, MSX, etc., and "PC" means the modern personal computer you are running the Xilinx tools on. 0. Make sure your system is powered OFF to begin 1. Open your system to get physical access to the F18A 2. Plug the JTAG programmer in to your PC (via USB) and the F18A (via JTAG) 3. Power ON your system 4. Launch the Xilinx IMPACT tool 5. Double-click on "Boundary Scan", then right-click in the main area and select "initialize chain" 6. The FPGA should be detected and show up in the big area. A window will open with device properties, just click "ok" 7. Above the FPGA icon should be a dotted line with "SPI/BPI ?" in it. Right-click on that box and select "Add SPI/BPI Flash..." 8. Navigate to the f18a_250k_vXX.mcs file you extracted from the .zip file and choose "Open" 9. Select "SPI PROM" and "M25P80" from the two drop-down selections and click "OK" 10. The box above the FPGA should now say "FLASH" in it. Right-click the box and select "Program" Once the programming is finished, cycle power on your system and make sure it comes up. ******** Examples ******** Included in the zip file is a demos disk that shows many of the enhanced features of the F18A. The source for all the programs are included. I did not write these programs and I am very thankful to Rasmus and Tursi for contributing them. rasmus_scroll.zip F18A documentation.pdf f18a_register_use.zip F18A_V19.zip
  5. Would it be possible to access (read and write) the original 16K VDP memory RAM from the F18a GPU? Guess not, at least not for writing. But asking anyway, you never know. Would be a cool for a future F18a firmware revision to access the 16K VDP memory on the main board as a second bank of VDP memory.
  6. Does anyone have a datasheet for the 9918? Is there any pinout difference between the 9918 and 9918A? Also, aside from GM2, are there any functional differences? What I am ultimately trying to determine is if the F18A can be dropped into an 99/4? Has anyone tried?
  7. I read the documentation and looked at the register excel file, but questions remains (and I'm assuming I'm doing something wrong in Stevie) What is the proper way to halt the emulated TMS9900 CPU in the F18a? Is it sufficient to use the IDLE instruction as last line in assembly program or do I need to halt the CPU in the F18a GPU by writing 0 to extended register VR56 (>38) ? What is the proper way to lock the F18a GPU after it has been unlocked? Is it sufficient to write >00 to extended register VR57 (>39)?
  8. While reconciling the Horizon Ramdisk ROS, CFG, and MENU programs I have been learning about GROM access. In all these years, I've never had much interest in GPL or GROM. That changed for a few reasons including the need to understand GROM to reconcile the source code and my curiosity of the magic that Tursi and Gazoo have been conjuring. Since there is no better way to learn (IMHO) about something than to experiment with it, I found the source code for the 80-column Geneve version of BOOT. In its native configuration, it resides in two GPL banks and over-rides the title screen. Gazoo's XB27 suite does something similar with BOOT so I removed most of the Geneve-specific code and started playing around. Gazoo, Atrax, and Omega have been most helpful testing and offering ideas. Although the program is not quite ready for release, I can tell you a few things about it: 1. The menu and all options are presented in 80 columns. F18A and V9938 80-column modes are supported. 2. BwG clock, MBP, Triple Tech, Geneve, and Clulow clocks are supported. Classic99's clock has been tested but not currently implemented due to space constraints. (incorporation will occur with future consolidation of the clock routines). 3. Menu files can be created as executables that are run from the menu itself. Chaining of menus is possible with this feature, allowing an "unlimited" number of selections. 4. The menu program can save itself to the Uber cartridge, similar to the function provided by Gazoo's cartridge code. It can also be saved to disk as BOOT. 5. Ramdisk boot tracking has been added for "DSK*." support, though this may not be necessary. 6. The cartridge finder has been updated to scan up to 16 GROM banks from g>9800 to g>983C. It will also find name headers in the same GROM, such as those found in the Mini Memory cartridge or XB27 suite. The HSGPL exhibits some odd behaviour that we are trying to track down. 7. Re-entry hooks are in place for potential return to the menu from external programs (provided they do not stomp on the menu code). This program is by no means a formal project and I make no promises on how far I will take it. Once a few more tests are completed, I'll share the first release for folks to play with. I haven't settled on a name for the program so for now, it will refer to its roots as the "9640 Menu System".
  9. SOLD For Sale: Quantity 2 (F18A + VGA header set). LIMIT one + header each to two separate buyers to spread the wealth. CONUS shipping only. Boards new, still sealed in their anti-static bags (original receipt pic below to prove I'm original purchaser and V1.8 firmware). Not TI-99/4A-specific, but they do have the low profile pins. I never got around to opening them and installing into a console to update to V1.9 (latest version). History: I have been running three others purchased in the same 2017 frame in TI-99/4A computers with zero issues or had to return one for repair or due to DOA! No warranty or support; selling as is. Specific install application and any firmware updates fall to the buyer. I will photocopy the fact/install sheet so each buyer gets a copy. With the MK2 due out soon, I'm asking $65 ($57 each + $8 postage via USPS insured small flat-rate box). Sorry, that's what I have on hand due to the COVID-19 environment. Just trying to recover some on a previous investment to be able to afford new, future TI-99/4A gadgets. ? As this is my first listing here I'm going to keep it simple (for me) by asking payment via Paypal "friends and family" with verified address, subject to terms above and replies HERE to keep it above board as I'm not playing PM race the clock. First come; first serve ... then we can hash out details via PM with settled payment to hopefully get them out to y'all this week. Thanks in advance for your interest. Doug
  10. Hi All, I need your help in compiling a list of programs that support 80 column mode on the F18A. So far I have the following: CF2K 4A DOS BOOT Turbo Forth ... and I've heard rumors of a hacked Multiplan. Does anyone have any experience or first hand knowledge of other programs?
  11. A few years ago I was playing around with the Infocom Interpreter, trying to make it compatible with the F18A 80 column mode. In the original 80 column interpreter, the pattern descriptor table was relocated to VRAM bank #1, something that only exists with a V9938 configuration. The attached disk contains a version of the interpreter (ZORKF18A) modified to work within the constraints of the original 16K of VRAM. I have tested the program with both Classic99 and js99er. I do not currently have my F18A system up and running, so it would be helpful if someone would give this a whirl on the real hardware. Thanks to Shift838 for his help gathering the missing details to make this possible. If successful, I will update the other interpreter(s) that are needed for the ported games. (The game files have been validated using the $VERIFY command) ZORK1.dsk
  12. Think I read somewhere that the F18A also supports a 30 rows/80 character mode as opposed to the "normal" 24 x 80 columns mode. If that is true, can someone point me how the F18A VDP registers must be set to activate the mode? Thanks retroclouds *EDIT* It's 30 rows, not 31 rows.
  13. I noticed in the F18a spreadsheet that there's a high-resolution timer in the F18a. At least that is what the F18a Status Registers SR3-SR11 indicate. Is my assumption correct? Did anyone use this timer yet?
  14. Regarding a recent discussion on the various aspect ratios available to the stock console (or emulations thereof), there seems to be some clarification needed on what the actual aspect ratios are of the original TI output (both 60Hz and 50Hz). I say "needed" because, firstly, this info is very hard to find, and, secondly, there is a belief among some that the TMS9918, at least, has a 4:3 aspect ratio addressable pixel area with square pixels. This is not true, and, consulting the datasheet to solidify the numbers in my own mind, it is clear that neither the TMS9918A nor the TMS9929A employ use of square pixels. Most of the emulators I've seen use square pixels. Hopefully these numbers will be of use to someone else at some point. On page 5 of a document entitled TMS 9918A 9928A 9929A VDP Preliminary Specification 1981, there's this section: The hasty handwritten figures aren't mine; that's how I found this document on the web, and boy, it is not an easy document to find. Here it is for posterity, and, from this datasheet, plus the F18A documentation here, I've put together a side-by-side comparison of the different aspect ratios offered by each VDP. Remember that all of these are designed to send their output to a 4:3 screen. With the TI's addressable pixel area being 256x192, or also 4:3, you may think that this is a great match: 4:3 addressable area to a 4:3 screen = 4:3 aspect ratio. But no, the timings of the various analogue video systems have to be respected, so extra pixel rows and columns are required to border the addressable area. The 60 Hz VDP outputs an area of 284x243, although only 256x192 pixels are addressable, while the rest of the 'pixels' are set to a solid background colour. The 50 Hz VDP outputs an area of 284x294, although, again, only 256x192 pixels are addressable. Of course, there are no actual 'pixels' in the border area, but the pixel clock is running, nonetheless, and a pixel width is used as a reference in the above datasheet for the amount of vertical or horizontal space occupied by this area. The F18A outputs square pixels, as asserted by the chip's designer. However, square pixels (1.333:1) are a slightly different 'squeeze' to what you'd get from an NTSC console (1.52:1), and very different to what you'd get from a 50 Hz console (1.82:1). Given the numbers provided by the creators of all three products, the side-by-side comparison of aspect ratios looks like the following diagram: Personally, I most prefer the NTSC shape. It's a nice fit for the available screen area. The 50 Hz (PAL) that I have access to I.R.L. is too squashed in the vertical direction (or "short"), while the F18A is too "tall" for my liking. That being said, my previous sentence is merely my opinion, and not a slight on anyone nor any reason to take offense. I'm just stating a preference, and y'all are welcome to your own! Also, please note that results may vary, depending on the knobs and settings on your old CRT. On some of them, you can adjust H-WIDTH, and even V-HEIGHT is often a possibility. Both of those will alter the aspect ratio by squeezing or stretching the image. LCDs do a better job of remaining faithful to the input signal and not chopping anything off, but, if you fiddle with the menus, you can usually override that as well, depending on the monitor. If I've made any errors, please let me know!
  15. So as not to pollute the F18 info thread I'm starting this thread for random F18A related questions!
  16. HELP! I've been working on this project: http://github.com/calphool/TRS80GS I've built 4 revisions of this board for my friend's TRS-80. I've had a heck of a time keeping the VDP chip working in a stable configuration. I had everything working for a while, and then suddenly it decided that it wouldn't work any more. I screwed around with the caps on the crystal (soldering on heavier leads and stuff), and eventually it blinked back to life, but now I only have a luminance signal (or at least the TV can't interpret the color part of the NTSC signal, so I get black-and-white). What I need is a very stable clock, and unfortunately there seem to be about a half dozen different examples of how people have set up the clock on this chip. Here are a few: I need something that just always works, not something that's flaky and subject to weird transient noise. The VDP and its clock divider are basically the heart of my board now, and if I can't get the clock working right, nothing works (the sound chips and UART chip use the divided clock signal that comes out of the VDP for their own clocks). What's the best way to make sure this clock is super stable and reliable? The Texas Instruments hardware design? It's got a bunch of stuff inline (including something it calls an "SR Inductor" that has no uH rating, and I'm a little confused by). The ChromaTRS design? It's got some inverter gates attached to the crystal (though it doesn't specify the value for the resistor it's using). I've been using variations on each revision, with the most recent being the one from Byte magazine, which is flaky as all get out.
  17. The F18A is back in stock for anyone who was waiting on one. Please note that it might take me 4 to 5 days to fulfill orders and get them shipped, so please be patient if you order one. Thanks! http://codehackcreate.com/store
  18. Could someone please try the attached binary on the real deal? It's an 8k cartridge ROM that runs on the unexpanded console. I've been working on enhancing my spectra2 library with some new routines and would like to check if the Hardware is recognized in a reliable way. It should test the below: 1. Check if F18A is installed 2. Check if speech synthesizer is available 3. List the VDP refresh rate 50/60Hz Thanks. test1c.bin
  19. I spent much of the weekend opening my 99/4A, removing the cassette jack, installing F18a, placing VGA out in the place of the cassette jack, etc. Powered on and all was good. Fun last night and was online (telnet BBS) via WiFi232 and TIMXT this morning. Left the term prog loaded all day while I cleaned and rearranged the room so I can actually sit in front of the 99 to BBS properly, aaaand.... I noticed the text on TIMXT was no longer white but a muddy color. No keyboard response. I powered off and on -- no more video output. I can hear the TV power up, I hit 2 for FR99, can hear things as I navigate thru it and load a random cart and I see from its LED that it's loading a cart. But no video out. I tried it on a different VGA LCD, no video there either -- so it's not my screen. SO disappointing. Was so looking forward to BBSing in ANSI color on the TI here on my 45th birthday (today). Definite birthday downer. I really don't want to pull everything out again and open up the TI -- no energy for that again, not tonite. Any ideas out there? Is there a chance things are not fried? I now the TI needs the gfx chip to access memory, or I believe it does. So, it can't be fully fried. The ribbon cable is well secured, screwed into the case. No stress on it since I turned on this morning. https://twitter.com/blakespot/status/866030731725819904 Thanks. bp
  20. I've got two TIs with the same ailment. Black screen on power on with the unending tone. Both occurred in relation to an F18A mod (but I would guess the F18A is not the cause) and I was wondering if anyone had some brilliant advice that could save the day, or advice in avoiding future tragedy. Story Time - Not for the faint of heart, you have been warned. Beginning this year I got the urge to start playing with my TI-99/4A again, my TI had been sitting idle and collecting dust for a few years ever since it's TV went away. It was a stock TI, no expansions apart from the speech; and I was really interested in improving it to explore the community offerings. I read about this fabulous modification called the F18A that completely overhauled the TI's video out. It didn't seem too difficult, so I ordered one as soon as they came available and waited patiently. After a time I received the magic F18A and dutifully opened my TI, removed the VDP, and installed the F18A. I then dremeled some holes for the VGA cable and snaked it to the back of my console. Shield, attach, close up, power on, total victory! Everything seemed to work without complaint and I was playing Tunnels of Doom on my computer monitor the same evening. What followed were some good times, a month or so of vintage happiness. It was not to last. A few weeks ago I powered on my TI so I could continue one of my latest Quests for the King. Black screen, blaring tone. As near as I can tell this was a spontaneous failure as nothing had changed - the system hadn't been opened since the F18A and it had powered on fine the evening before; no new expansions or cable changes. The internet informed me this dreaded error could mean virtually anything wrong with the system. I opened the system and did the only diagnostic steps I could handle. I replaced the original VDP and tried to power on. Nothing. Tried putting the F18A back and powering on. Nothing. I started re-seating the GROMs and clock chip. As I gently pried and lifted the first GROM it suddenly flipped 180 and attacked me, impaling my poor finger. I quickly deduced the reason, I had snapped off two of the pins. Disaster. Nonetheless, I carried on to see if any change in the system state could be discerned from the re-seating. The TI was unmoved by my efforts and continued with the black screen and harsh tone. As I was working with the TI motherboard, and under unremembered circumstances. I took hold of the keyboard ribbon cable to attach to the motherboard and instead had it come away in my fingers. Catastrophe. The keyboard ribbon cable had sheared off from the solder points on the keyboard. I sadly realized that my efforts had probably already killed my patient, I honestly am not equipped or knowledgeable enough for computer surgery, and should no longer indulge in this pointless torture. I resolved to visit eBay and order another TI. A scan of ebay revealed that TIs generally would cost $50 after shipping. I decided to go ahead and order a lot of 2 that were both claimed to be working but were missing some accessories (only 1 power supply and no RF) and one was missing keycaps. I bid, I won, and I waited. Yesterday the TIs have arrived. I verified that they were indeed functional as stock units (although the busted keycap one seemed to have some video issues). I set about opening the better of the pair to transplant my F18A. Unscrew, open, unshield, pry. Everything proceeding smoothly I gently pried up the F18A from it's old host and I let out a cry of genuine anguish. One of the pins was gone (nothing else bent or damaged that I saw, just cruel fate), the F18A had been wounded in this latest action. What follows is my descent into pure madness and unmitigated stupidity. Faced with the missing pin, and desiring to install the F18A in the fresh patient IMMEDIATELY, I resolved to solder a replacement pin to the F18A board. Now some background, in years past some fool gifted me a inexpensive soldering iron as they knew my interest in vintage computing and thought I would find the tool useful. This tool would become a murder (of my poor TI) weapon. I have no training or formal education, and my past successful efforts with the tool have been only to solder wires together. A pin isn't that much different from a wire though? Of course not. So I cut a pin from a bit of discarded electronics I had laying around and proceeded to attempt to solder it to the board. What followed was an hour of trembling hands, cursing, fiddling, and jabbing a hot iron at the little board to try and get the pin to stick and not be crooked. Each passable attempt ended in failure, resulting in a black screen (but accompanied by the TI's lovely startup chirp). These efforts were interspersed with periodic sanity checks with the original VDP which I would insert to verify that I had not inflicted fatal injury. This continued until finally a measure of success. Video, but not that which brings joy, but a hideous abomination that shrivels the soul. The system powered on, but showed a title screen that was corrupted. The colors were wrong, the characters were garbled. Further desperate action improved nothing: from garbled screen, to blank blue screen, to black screen, to F18A ready screen, to garbled screen; round and round till I resolved myself and admitted defeat. However, the drama still had one final cruel twist of fate. I placed another F18A order and replaced the original VDP. Only this time instead of the grainy title screen I was greeted by doom's horrible screech. Black screen, blaring tone. Panic. I tried replacing the F18A. Black screen, blaring tone. Re-seat all the socketed chips. Black screen, blaring tone. Swap power supplies. Black screen, blaring tone. To my shame it seems I have killed another patient. Now I confess my eyes have shifted to my last misshapen TI to perhaps harvest its organs to fuel my mad designs. One potential slight glimmer of growth, I have decided to err on the side of wisdom and solicit my betters, and prevail upon their wisdom to see if there is any way I may undo this horror, or at least advice that I may prevent another one. Well? What say you? TL;DR - I am an idiot. Due to botched install+repair I'm soliciting help/advice in fixing my TIs. Black screens, blaring tones.
  21. As mentioned elsewhere, I've been building a collection of F18A / slideshow99 compatible pix using Tursi's little convertor proggy (which is a lot of fun to fiddle with). And so here's a small batch.... I was going to categorize them, but I'm way too lazy to be that organized. That being said, I have created a separate disk of NLL (National Lacrosse League) logos (past and present) since, as always, I become completely obsessed/stressed-out at this time of year as the post-season draws ever closer... I know, I know, what kind of Canadian puts ANYTHING above hockey??? Well, I was raised in a Lacrosse town, so I like my hockey to have BALLS! (Although congrats to the Leafs for making it into the Playoffs). I've attached a single ZIP file for those who do not use a CF7/nanoPEB, so that you can use HDX, Floppies or your storage medium of choice. If you do use CF's I have also attached 5 separate CF7 discs (each contains 21 images). All but two or three of the images are converted from bitmaps I have on my PC, so many will be instantly familiar, but I think it's safe to say, this is their first appearance on a 4A. If there is already a thread where we are sharing these (besides the sample batch in the Flashrom99 thread), I ask that these get moved there and point me there for future reference. But if this is the first such post of this kind, then what's up with that??? I haven't looked, but I'd wager there are forum repositories of Spectrum512 images in the Atari forums! F18A_PICS1.zip NLLPIX_1.dsk PEBOPIX_1.dsk PEBOPIX_2.dsk PEBOPIX_3.dsk PEBOPIX_4.dsk
  22. OK, so I just installed an f18a on my ADAM a couple of days ago and it worked great...until I put my ADAM back together today and now when I turn it on I get this screen. Any ideas? I'm not looking forward to tearing the thing apart again!!!
  23. I got my F18A a little while ago and I've been waiting for some free time to get it installed and try it out, but I figured I'd ask the forum if anyone has any particular tips or best practices for mounting and installation. Any particular VGA bracket mounting location better than others, best way to modify the case, etc?
  24. I am looking to put together a motherboard replacement and wanted to get some opinions on a few things. In order to keep costs low and reduce board size, the controller ports would be moved to the expansion port area. Ideally the SGM features could be impletemented, but if not an expansion port could be done internally and a SGM could be installed inside the system. This board would only be F18a compatible so only VGA output would be available (although an off the shelf converter would fit inside with the extra room to convert to HDMI). The board would include new power reset switch functionality. The attached picture shows a rough first pass at the PCB, Some stock images from the motherboard have been superimposed to give a general idea of where components would go. Is not Having the expansion port in the front a deal breaker for most or does this seem like it could be a solution for those looking for a replacement. All feedback is welcome. Thanks
  25. From the album: ColecoVision

    Success.

    © TJW 2016

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